The Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) has long been committed to educating financially disadvantaged students, the children of immigrants and others who might be the first in their families ever to attend college. That held true even back in 1956, when Bill Friend graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering. The son of a New York City cab driver who toiled six days a week and a German-born governess who had come to America to work for a wealthy family, Friend went on to a long and distinguished career that included an executive vice presidency and directorship at the Bechtel Corporation, one of the most respected engineering, procurement, and construction companies in the world.
Along the way, he served as chairman of the University of California’s President’s Council on the National Laboratories, the treasurer of the National Academy of Engineering, a member of the Governing Board of the National Research Council, a director of the Inter American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., and chairman of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME).
For 27 years he was also a valued member of the NYU-Poly Board of Trustees, and on April 18, 2013, members of the Poly community gathered to honor him for his longstanding service, professional expertise, generosity, and visionary leadership.
The Friends have established not one, but two, endowed scholarships at Poly: The Sidney and Katherine Friend NACME Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 by the W. L. Friend Family Foundation to recognize his prior role as Chairman of NACME and in memory of his parents, and the W. L. Friend Family Scholarship Fund was later launched.
While Friend and his wife, Mary Kay, seemed touched by the toast offered by President Katepalli Sreenivasan and the framed citation and gifts that were presented to them, they were especially moved by the presence of two Friend Scholars, students who have been able to attend Poly thanks to the generosity of the Friend family. Carlos Martinez, a current NACME Friend Scholar who is studying math, said, “I’m happy to have the chance to thank them for funding my education, because I wouldn’t be here without the scholarship.”
Jeffrey Burdier--a former NACME Friend Scholar who graduated summa cum laude in 2012 and found work immediately as an electrical engineer--discovered ample common ground with his benefactor. Friend, who had been given an honorary doctorate by Poly in 2005, good-naturedly pointed out that they had both graduated summa cum laude and said, “I didn’t stay in school to get a doctoral degree either. I needed to get out there and start working too.”